the History which this Volume completes was not contemplated by its author till just after the Draft Riots
by which this Emporium was damaged and disgraced in July, 1863.
Up to the occurrence of those Riots, I had not been habitually confident of an auspicious immediate issue from our momentous struggle.
Never doubting that the ultimate
result would be such as to vindicate emphatically the profoundly wise beneficence of God, it had seemed to me more probable — in view of the protracted and culpable complicity of the North
in whatever of guilt or shame, of immorality or debasement, was inseparable from the existence and growth of American Slavery — that a temporary triumph might accrue to the Confederates
The real danger of the Republic
was not that of permanent division, but of general
saturation by and subjugation to the despotic ideas and aims of the Slaveholding Oligarchy
Had the Confederacy
proved able to wrest from the Federal
authorities an acknowledgment of its Independence, and had Peace been established and ratified on that basis, I believe the Democratic Party in the loyal States would have forthwith taken ground for “restoration” by the secession of their respective States, whether jointly or severally, from the Union
, and their adhesion to the Confederacy
under its Montgomery Constitution — making Slavery universal and perpetual.
And, under the moral influence of Southern triumph and Northern defeat, in full view of the certainty that thus only could reunion be achieved, there can be little doubt that the law of political gravitation, of centripetal force, thus appealed to, must have ultimately prevailed.
Commercial and manufacturing thrift would have gradually vanquished moral repugnance.
It might have required some years to heal the wounds of War and secure a popular majority in three or four of the Border States
in favor of Annexation; but the geographic and economic incitements to Union are so urgent and palpable, that State after State would have concluded to go to the mountain, since it stubbornly refused to come to Mahomet; and, all the States that the Confederacy
would consent to accept, on conditions of penitence and abjuration, would, in time, have knocked humbly at its grim portals for admission and fellowship.
That we have been saved from such a fate is due to the valor of our soldiers, the constancy of our ruling statesmen, the patriotic faith and courage of those citizens who, within a period of three years, loaned more than Two Billions to their Government when it seemed to many just tottering on the brink of ruin; yet, more than all else, to the favor and blessing of Almighty God.
They who, whether in Europe
, from July, 1862, to July, 1863, believed the Union
death-stricken, had the balance of material probabilities on their side: they erred only in underrating the potency of those intellectual, moral, and Providential forces, which in our age operate with accelerated power and activity in behalf of Liberty, Intelligence, and Civilization.
So long as it seemed probable that our War would result more immediately in a Rebel triumph, I had no wish, no heart, to be one of its historians; and it was only when — following closely on the heels of the great Union successes of July, 1863, at Gettysburg
, Port Hudson
, and Helena
— I had seen the Rebellion
resisted and defeated in
this City of New York
(where its ideas and vital aims were more generally cherished than even in South Carolina
), that I confidently hoped for an immediate and palpable, rather than a remote and circuitous triumph of the Union
, now and evermore blended inseparably with Emancipation — with the legal and National recognition of every man's right to himself.
Thenceforward, with momentary intervals of anxiety, depression, and doubt, it has been to me a labor of love to devote every available hour to the history of the American Conflict
This Volume is essentially Military, as the former was Civil: that is, it treats mainly of Armies, Marches, Battles, Sieges, and the alternations of good and ill fortune that, from January, 1862, to May, 1865, befell the contending forces respectively of the Union
and the Confederacy
But he who reads with attention will discern that I have regarded even these under a moral rather than a purely material aspect.
Others have doubtless surpassed me in the vividness, the graphic power, of their delineations of “the noise of the captains, and the shouting:” I have sought more especially to portray the silent influence of these collisions, with the efforts, burdens, sacrifices, bereavements, they involved, in gradually molding and refining Public Opinion to accept, and ultimately demand, the overthrow and extinction of Human Slavery, as the one vital, implacable enemy of our Nationality and our Peace.
Hence, while at least three-fourths of this Volume narrates Military or Naval occurrences, I presume a larger space of it than of any rival is devoted to tracing, with all practicable brevity, the succession of Political events; the sequences of legislation in Congress with regard to Slavery and the War
; the varying pleases of Public Sentiment; the rise, growth, and decline, of hopes that the War
would be ended through the accession of its adversaries to power in the Union
I labor under a grave mistake if this be not judged by our grandchildren (should any of them condescend to read it) the most important and interesting feature of my work.
I have differed from most annalists, in preferring to follow a campaign or distinct military movement to its close before interrupting its narration to give accounts of simultaneous movements or campaigns in distant regions, between other armies, led by other commanders.
In my historical reading, I have often been perplexed and confused by the facility wherewith chroniclers leap from the Euphrates
to the Danube
, and from the Ebro to the Vistula.
In full view of the necessary inter-dependence of events occurring on widely separated arenas, it has seemed to me preferable to follow one movement to its culmination before dealing with another; deeming the inconveniences and obscurities involved in this method less serious than those unavoidable (by me, at least) on any different plan.
Others will judge between my method and that which has usually been followed.
I have bestowed more attention on marches, and on the minor incidents of a campaign, than is common: historians usually devoting their time and force mainly to the portrayal of great, decisive (or at least destructive) battles.
But battles are so often won or lost by sagaciously planned movements, skillful combinations, well-conducted marches, and wise dispositions, that I have extended to these a prominence which seemed to me more clearly justified than usually conceded.
He was not an incapable general who observed that he chose to win battles with his soldiers' legs rather than their muskets.
As to dates, I could wish that commanders on all hands were more precise than they usually are; but, wherever dates were accessible, I have given them, even though invested with no special or obvious consequence.
Printed mainly as foot-notes, they consume little space, and do not interrupt the flow of the narrative.
The reader who does
not value need not heed them; while the critical student will often find them of decided use. Should any one demur to this, I urge him to examine thoughtfully the dates of the dispatches received and sent by McClellan
between his retreat to Harrison
's bar and Pope
's defeat at Groveton
; also, those given in my account of his movements from the hour of his arrival at Frederick
to that of Lee
's retreat from Sharpsburg
across the Potomac
I trust it will be observed by candid critics that, while I seek not to disguise the fact that I honor and esteem some of our commanders as I do not others, I have been blind neither to the errors of the former nor to the just claims of the latter — that my high estimation of Grant
(for instance) has not led me to conceal or soften the lack of reasonable precautions which so nearly involved their country in deplorable if not irremediable disaster at Pittsburg Landing
So with Banks
's mishap at Sabine Cross-roads and Butler
's failure at Fort Fisher
On the other hand, I trust my lack of faith in such officers as Buell
and Fitz John Porter
has not led me to represent them as incapable or timorous soldiers.
What I believe in regard to these and many more of their school is, that they were misplaced — that they halted between their love of country and their traditional devotion to Slavery — that they clung to the hope of a compromise which should preserve both Slavery and
, long after all reasonable ground of hope had vanished; fighting the Rebellion
with gloved hands and relaxed sinews because they mistakenly held that so only was the result they sighed for (deeming it most beneficent) to be attained.
If the facts do not justify my conviction, I trust they will be found so fairly presented in the following pages as to furnish the proper corrective for my errors.
Without having given much heed to rival issues, I presume this volume will be found to contain accounts (necessarily very brief) of many minor actions and skirmishes which have been passed unheeded by other historians, on the assumption that, as they did not perceptibly affect the great issue, they are unworthy of record.
But the nature and extent of that influence is matter of opinion, while the qualities displayed in these collisions were frequently deserving of grateful remembrance.
And, beside, an affair of outposts or foraging expeditions has often exerted a most signal influence over the spirits of two great antagonist armies, and thus over the issues of a battle, and even of a campaign.
Compressed within the narrowest limits, I have chosen to glance at nearly every conflict of armed forces, and to give time to these which others have devoted to more elaborate and florid descriptions of great battles.
It has been my aim to compress within the allotted space the greatest number of notable facts arid circumstances; others must judge how fully this end has been achieved.
Doubtless, many errors of fact, and some of judgment, are embodied in the following pages: for, as yet, even the official reports, &c., which every historian of this war must desire to study, are but partially accessible.
I have missed especially the Confederate
reports of the later campaigns; only a few of which have been made public, though many more, it is probable, will in time be. Some of these may have been destroyed at the hasty evacuation of Richmond
; but many must have been preserved, in manuscript if not in print, and will yet see the light.
So far as they were attainable, I have used the reports of Confederate officers as freely as those of their antagonists, and have accorded them nearly if not quite equal credit.
I judge that the habit of understating or concealing their losses was more prevalent with Confederate than with Union commanders; in over-estimating the numbers they resisted, I have not been able to perceive
It is simple truth to say that such over-estimates seem to have been quite common on both sides.
I shall be personally obliged to any one, no matter on what side he served, who will furnish me with trustworthy data for the correction of any misstatement embodied in this work.
If such correction shall dictate a revision of any harsh judgment on friend or foe, it will be received and conformed to with profound gratitude.
My convictions touching the origin, incitements, and character, of the War
from which we have so happily emerged, are very positive, being the fruits of many years' almost exclusive devotion to National affairs; but my judgments as to occurrences and persons are held subject to modification upon further and clearer presentments of facts.
It is my purpose to revise and correct the following pages from day to day as new light shall be afforded; and I ask those who may feel aggrieved by any statement I shall herein have given to the public, to favor me with the proofs of its inaccuracy.
Unwilling to be drawn into controversy, I am most anxious to render exact justice to each and all.
The subject of Reconstruction
(or Restoration) is not within the purview of this work, and I have taken pains to avoid it so far as possible.
The time is not yet for treating it exhaustively, or even historically; its importance, as well as its immaturity, demand for its treatment thoughtful hesitation as well as fullness of knowledge.
Should I be living when the work is at length complete, I may submit a survey of its nature.
progress, and results: meantime, I will only avow my undoubting faith that the same Divine Benignity which has guided our country through perils more palpable if not more formidable, will pilot her safely, even though slowly, through those which now yawn before her, land bring her at last into the haven of perfect Peace, genuine Fraternity, and everlasting Union--a Peace grounded on reciprocal esteem; a Fraternity based on sincere, fervent love of our common country; and a Union cemented by hearty and general recognition of the truth, that the only abiding security for the cherished rights of any is to be found in a full and hearty recognition of Human Brotherhood as well as State sisterhood — in the establishment and assured maintenance of All Rights for All.